Tag Archives: halloween

GGOOLLDDen days

By Joey Grihalva

If I had to pick an ultimate Milwaukee music memory since I moved back to town in 2013, it wouldn’t be a sold-out record release show. It wouldn’t be a game-changing music video shoot. It wouldn’t be an epic house jam.

It would be the morning of Saturday, February 28, 2015. The night before, my girlfriend and I had been running around Bay View at the inaugural Arte Para Todos festival. We crashed at her place near the lake because it was close.

When her kids were dropped off the next morning I picked up her 3-year-old daughter and threw on a cassette tape I bought from Gloss Records’ Joey Peterson the night before at Tonic Tavern.

As a bright winter sun flooded the house with light, I danced with little Vera in my arms to the dreamy synth-pop sounds of GGOOLLDD, her favorite band.

In fact, GGOOLLDD was the first band Vera, at the age of 2, saw live. It was at PBR Fest 2014 when the band not even a year old shared a bill with the mighty Sylvan Esso. I had yet to meet my girlfriend then, but GGOOLLDD would become the soundtrack to our romance.

When I first heard GGOOLLDD’s infectious debut single “Gold” on 88.9 I was compelled to Shazam the song. Months later I met my girlfriend and learned that GGOOLLDD is a local band. A year later, GGOOLLDD became the second Milwaukee band in a decade to sell out a headlining show at Turner Hall Ballroom, which holds a capacity of nearly 1,000 people.

The band returns to headline Turner Hall this Friday, December 2. They will be joined by Minneapolis funk pop party band Har Mar Superstar and Detroit indie-electro act Flint Eastwood.

A few weeks ago I sat down with frontwoman Margaret Butler, bassist Nicholas Ziemann, drummer Mark Stewart and synth player Nick Schubert.

‘Twas the night after the Presidential Election. In addition to the devastating results, Ziemann’s car had been broken into and his laptop stolen.

When the band suspected a hard drive with six months worth of work was also missing they posted about it on social media, offering a hefty reward for its return. Luckily, the hard drive was back at their rehearsal space. But then Schubert’s car was towed.

Needless to say, the band had been on an emotional rollercoaster the previous 48 hours.

FROM BAR TALK TO THE BIG STAGE

GGOOLLDD was almost just another wild idea between new friends at a bar. Thankfully, Tony Hunt followed through on his drunken proposal to start a band with Margaret Butler. A service industry veteran from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Butler was inspired to take the stage after seeing Milwaukee dance trash-pop outfit Rio Turbo.

Hunt came up in the Milwaukee underground. He met Butler one night at Tonic Tavern, where Ziemann was tending bar. An Appleton-native who had been playing in bands since he was a teenager, Ziemann offered to play bass. Butler met keyboardist Thomas Gilbert through a girlfriend. A few other friends were recruited for a Halloween attic show in 2013, the band’s live debut.

Both Stewart and Ziemann hail from Appleton. Back in middle and high school, Stewart was aware of “hometown hero” Ziemann, who played in Number One Fan and The Wildbirds. Just a few months after Stewart moved to Milwaukee he heard through a mutual friend that Ziemann was in a new band that was looking for a drummer.

“We had another guy who auditioned and he was really great but Mark had this hunger,” explains Ziemann. “You know that text message that you almost regret sending because it’s too vulnerable? That was his Facebook message to me. And I was like, ‘That is what we need. This band needs heart. And we need to build off that heart.’”

Schubert was the final addition to the band. He got his start filling in for Ziemann, who was on tour with Hugh Bob & the Hustle. Most members of GGOOLLDD have spent time in other bands, but have never been so comfortable in their role.

I first saw GGOOLLDD on Halloween 2014 at Yield Bar in Milwaukee. Or rather, I saw SSIILLVVEERR that night, as Butler wore a silver wig. (Halloween is her favorite holiday.) It was a beautifully raucous show and I was instantly hooked.

Shortly after, I dropped in at Blackbird in Bay View. Butler was tending bar on a slow, snowy Monday night. We chatted, joked, shared music, and got to know each other. Upon moving to the Midwest she was turned off by how awkward and resistant to dancing Milwaukee crowds can be. Butler’s eccentric wardrobe choices and theatrics have shades of Karen O. (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), inspiring audiences to loosen up and enjoy themselves.

GGOOLLDD at Summer Soulstice 2015 [PHOTO - Joe Kirschling]
GGOOLLDD at Summer Soulstice 2015 [PHOTO – Joe Kirschling]
“Margaret never ceases to amaze the band with her ability to connect with the audience. I’ll sit there on stage and think, ‘I’m buying whatever she’s selling,’” says Ziemann.

A month after their PBR Fest 2014 performance GGOOLLDD released a catchy four-track EP, $tandard$. With radio play on three major independent stations — 88.9, 91.7, and 102.1 — and a fun live show, GGOOLLDD quickly booked gigs in and around Milwaukee.

On the first of a seven-night run at SXSW 2015 in Austin, Texas, the band received a generous donation from two tech developers who immediately got the GGOOLLDD vibe. The band has since opened for Blondie, Death from Above 1979, The Polyphonic Spree, and played festivals, benefits, colleges and venues all over the Midwest.

GGOOLLDD has played Milwaukee’s PrideFest twice and their Summerfest 2015 performance took place hours after the landmark Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation. To commemorate the event, Butler got a “Love Wins” tattoo. Fall 2015 saw GGOOLLDD’s first tour, a 10-date trip out East with Gloss Records label mates NO/NO.

BAND DYNAMICS & THE CREATIVE PROCESS

GGOOLLDD started Halloween 2013, I first saw them the next Halloween, and the following year they played Freakfest in Madison. This year, though, the band opted out of a Halloween gig.

“We stayed in, recorded and watched scary movies. And made a bomb ass veggie stir fry,” says Stewart.

I can’t blame them for taking Halloween off, as they were still recovering from a 36-hour music video shoot for their new single “Undercovers.” Inspired in part by the Netflix series Stranger Things, the video was made by Appleton-based S.C. Pictures. It was shot in Southern Wisconsin near the small town of Clinton.

“Undercovers” is GGOOLLDD’s first song since the departure of Tony Hunt, who moved to Nashville in the Fall of 2014, but continued to play with the band until earlier this year.

Since Hunt left the primary focus has been band dynamics and creating new material.

“When we started it was just me and Tony. He would write songs and I would put words to them. It was very simple. We had to figure out how to re-write together as a group,” says Butler.

The band members were at odds over the overly polished pop sound Hunt favored.

“We went from almost breaking up to now being the best of friends,” says Butler.

“We’re now tapping into resources that we had but didn’t always execute in the best way,” adds Stewart.

“If you put 10 of our newest songs together you couldn’t say which of us played what part,” says Ziemann. “There’s no control hierarchy anymore. And that’s a strange thing. I’ve never been in a band like this.”

“I’ve watched other people write together and so many times they’ll just let the other person play and play even if they don’t like it, because they don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings or step on each other’s toes,” says Butler.

That’s not the case with GGOOLLDD. Everyone’s ears must be happy. Because they are so close, and they understand and respect each other, they’re not afraid to offer each other criticism. Ultimately, it’s about serving the songs.

SPARKS IN THE STUDIO

“Undercovers” was born during a weekend at Schubert’s family cabin about six months ago. Since then the band has found a groove creating new music. They recently returned to the cabin for another writing retreat.

“We’ve always thrived as a live band,” says Stewart. “Our performances have been super motivating for us personally. Now we’re finding that same sort of spark in the studio.”

“It used to take four hours of drinking to encourage ourselves to write something. Now it’s just like, ‘Let’s start where we left off last night,’” adds Ziemann.

The band has built a makeshift studio in Ziemann’s basement, preparing for the winter. But their setup is semi-mobile in case inspiration hits while on the road. New music may be their top priority, but the band continues to perform around the Midwest.

“We’re rarely in town on the weekends,” says Butler. “We’re getting to where we’re making that radius around Milwaukee bigger and bigger every few months. When we’re on the road is when we feel most at home.”

SATISFYING THE BAND

GGOOLLDD admits they don’t have many long-term goals. The band makes plans on a week-to-week basis. While a major label may have helped cover certain expenses in the past, they’ve managed to do everything themselves up to this point. Right now, it’s about satisfying the band — and in the short history of GGOOLLDD, no moment has been as fulfilling as their sold-out Turner Hall show in January.

“The majority of the time as a musician you feel uncertain,” admits Ziemann. “But at those moments it’s so real. The energy in that place was amazing. Milwaukee has been very, very awesome to us.”

“At that point you can’t not put on a great show, because you’re just as excited as the kids in the front row,” exclaims Butler.

“We’re trying to make ourselves happy, and if it makes other people happy then it’s like, ‘Alright, I can do this for the rest of my life,’” says Ziemann.

On Stage: GGOOLLDD returns to Turner Hall Ballroom December 2. The band will be in Appleton at Mill Creek on December 8, and in Madison at The Frequency on December 9. For more visit www.ggoollddband.com.

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GGOOLLDD [From left: Nicholas Ziemann, Mark Stewart, Margaret Butler, Thomas Gilbert, Nick Schubert]

[ FULL – INTERVIEW ]

D’Angelo’s Voodoo was playing in its entirety in the background at Tin Window in Walker’s Point during my interview with four of the five members of GGOOLLDD, much to the delight of drummer Mark Stewart. For the purposes of this transcript, Nicholas Ziemann is referred to as BIG NICK and Nick Schubert is referred to as LIL NICK.

WiG
Tell me about this robbery.

MARGARET
Funny story.

BIG NICK
Funny, no.

MARGARET
We went to the cabin all weekend to write these new songs we’ve been working on and we got a new hard drive.

MARK
Probably about five or six months worth of new songs and ideas were on it. So (Lil) Nick’s dad has a cabin up north about an hour away from Steven’s Point. We played a show at the college on Thursday night and then turned it into a writing/recording weekend to finish these songs. So we had all these other ideas and went up there and spent four days straight working until the late night, just hours and hours and hours finalizing all this stuff and then we got back and these guys went to like LuLu.

BIG NICK
Yeah we got back, settled in for the night then we got up and went to lunch. Loaded up everything into the practice space, and figured we’d stop and get some soup.

MARGARET
So the night we got in town Nick was so excited to show our buddy the stuff we’ve been working on. So the hard drive was in this bag with a bunch of other stuff all, like our cables we need for recording, microphones, whatever. But this hard drive had like everything on it, everything we’ve done over the past six months. So Nick brings it inside of the building and then forgets, like we were carrying a bunch of stuff back down. And forgot that he left it in the studio. And the next morning we got our van broken into and his laptop got his stolen. And then we’re like, “Wait, where the fuck is the hard drive?! Where is this bag?” And it was just completely ironic…

BIG NICK
I called the guy first thing and said it’s either here or it’s there and he’s like, “Dude you carried it out, sorry.”

MARGARET
So he even said “No it’s not there, I saw you carrying it out.”

BIG NICK
Because when you get stuff stolen you don’t know, you wonder, “What was here?”

MARK
They walked out and all they saw was their van with a smashed window and for sure a laptop missing, so then you’re just running through your head.

MARGARET
And that bag is gone.

WiG
But in actuality it was at the studio?

MARGARET
Yeah.

MARK
We just found out. But the laptop’s gone.

LIL NICK
But we had a day where we were just crushed.

MARGARET
That laptop is just money basically.

LIL NICK
The hard drive is much more.

MARK
Countless, like an impossible number of hours.

BIG NICK
We actually offered a $1,000 reward and that was on the conservative side because we needed it. We’re on a time crunch just trying to move forward. We almost cancelled this weekend of shows because of it. Not to be dramatic, but because new songs are more important than anything else to us. But everything’s okay.

MARGARET
Everything is fine now.

WiG
Minus the election.

MARK
Right.

BIG NICK
Yeah, we kind of doubled down. We kind of got hit twice.

MARGARET
Well yeah that happened and then (Lil) Nick’s car got towed.

LIL NICK
Yeah, it was hilarious. Just comical.

MARK
We’ve been riding an emotional rollercoaster.

BIG NICK
Crying and laughter. Crying and laughter.

LIL NICK
But it’s going to be okay.

BIG NICK
We’re about to start an emo side project.

(The band laughs.)

WiG (to Lil Nick)
Nick you are singing in that?

LIL NICK
You know it.

WiG
You guys started Halloween three years ago now?

MARGARET
Yeah, we just had our third birthday.

WiG
Did you do anything for Halloween?

BIG NICK
We stayed in.

MARGARET
We made a music video.

BIG NICK
Not the day of.

MARGARET
Okay, not on Halloween but that was kind of our Halloween celebration. You know, we’ve always played a show on Halloween…

LIL NICK
What did we do?

MARK
We stayed in and recorded and watched scary movies. And made a bomb ass veggie stir fry.

MARGARET
We needed a day to just chill. And Halloween was on a Monday this year.

MARK
On Saturday everybody was out doing cool stuff but we were just going to bro-down and make music and watch movies.

LIL NICK
I passed out around eleven. They had to shuffle me to bed because I was passed out on the couch.

BIG NICK
Our house is like the hub.

MARK
We spent a couple days basically building out a studio room in their basement last month.

BIG NICK
Getting prepped for winter.

WiG
So you’re recording in their house as well as the cabin?

BIG NICK
Yeah we have a semi-mobile setup. It’s not beautiful but it’s enough for us.

MARGARET
The cabin is more to just get in the state of mind to create more than it is functional for writing.

LIL NICK
It’s been like a twice a year thing.

MARGARET
It’s a morale thing more than anything.

BIG NICK
When we’re in a room together or a van together or anywhere together we tend to create something, we move forward in some way. But if you get us in a cabin with no distractions something’s going to happen. Well, at least two times in a row it happened.

LIL NICK
Two for two.

BIG NICK
That’s where “Undercovers” was birthed like six months ago and that was the first song we’d written in a year up until that point.

WiG
And you mentioned the video. (Lil) Nick was telling me about the video a couple weeks ago and I saw some pictures on social media. I thought you went out west somewhere to do it. Where was that?

MARK
Clinton, Wisconsin. Sort of near Beloit.

BIG NICK
This really really amazing couple that own a beautiful 250 acres. They were just so great. We lost our original location a week before so they were like a blessing, these people were so sweet. And I mean we shot for 36 hours straight. We were up for two days. Like the end of our music video we had been on camera and hadn’t slept and I was probably about six energy drinks in.

MARGARET
We were awake for 46 hours, I counted. Because I had to know. And from the minute we started filming to the minute that we wrapped it up was 30 hours straight. Did not sleep.

BIG NICK
There was no stopping.

MARK
We had it plotted out in such a way that we had to capture certain scenes capturing certain parts of the light.

LIL NICK
I had so many Monster energy drinks that during my death scene my eyelids were like twitching.

BIG NICK
Yours and mine.

MARK
Involuntarily!

LIL NICK
We’re going to have to edit that out because we were so hopped up on Monster.

MARGARET
We had a guy drive in at what, what time did John get there?

MARK
Four or five in the morning.

MARGARET
Five in the morning. We ran out, well he wasn’t just coming for that, but we were using his drone to shoot some of the shots, but he came there at 5 a.m. to bring us more energy drinks.

LIL NICK
And they didn’t have Red Bull so it had to be Monster. Never again.

MARGARET
It’s so gross.

BIG NICK
Our teeth hate us.

(Mark groans.)

BIG NICK
It’s about 98% done. This guy Connor that shot the whole thing, drove down from Appleton and it’s looking pretty cool.

WiG
That’s a quick turnaround.

BIG NICK
A handful of people helped us but the two people that spearheaded it are just amazing. Just professionals.

LIL NICK
And they’re young and that’s impressive.

MARK
They’re like 19 or 20.

LIL NICK
It’s crazy. They’re going to have a bright future.

MARK
Massively talented.

BIG NICK
We bit off a lot for this video and I think it might work.

WiG
Was there a budget for it?

BIG NICK
I mean, as much as there’s like a budget for us to get drinks right now.

(Everybody laughs.)

BIG NICK
Like we didn’t set aside a budget. If we spend money we just ask, “Is it worth it?” Just approaching every decision like that.

MARK
We had to get what we needed to get. Ultimately pretty much everybody just kind of volunteering and working incredibly hard to try and make it awesome.

MARGARET
That’s pretty much any project we do though. It will be great if people want to work for free to make it great.

BIG NICK
But we’re all in it together at that point. It’s like, we know this is irresponsible but at least let’s make ourselves happy. And our friends and the people who surround us are half the reason that we do what we do.

WiG
Has there been the potential for getting a label involved?

MARGARET
Not to speak for the entire band, but personally I’m disinterested in having a label. We’re moving in such a way that we haven’t yet to this point needed help moving further. And so until we’re at a point where we’re like, “Oh man, we could use such and such,” I don’t find it necessary. I feel like being on a label is a lot like getting a loan. You know what I mean?

BIG NICK
I think that’s ultimately what it is.

MARGARET
Like it’s not a great business move for us.

BIG NICK
And it’s like, now you got twenty rules you have to follow.

MARK
We’ve managed to do everything on our own terms up to this point. There hasn’t been a time where we’ve felt held back. We’ve always satisfied ourselves.

MARGARET
We do what we can afford to do.

BIG NICK
Our approach is pretty intentional.

MARGARET
We treat it like a business.

BIG NICK
The music is ultimately the most important thing. We got a lot of work to do, so we might as well focus on ourselves and work on the band here.

WiG
It sounds like at this point new music is more important than hitting the road hard?

MARK
That’s exactly right.

MARGARET
Yeah.

BIG NICK
For now.

MARK
Right now creatively morale is super, super high. I think we’re all really excited about it. But we also need to do it. I think it’s super vital right now that we’re kind of making conscious choices.

BIG NICK
And we’re starting to love it. It was scary for a second but we’re starting to love it. And it’s starting to feel right.

MARK
Getting into a groove with the actual direction we’re coming from.

MARGARET
Because for a long time I was like, “Ah, we gotta get on the road, we gotta go do stuff.” And then once we started like actually getting into the groove of writing I was just like, “No, I just want to stay here and do this and work on this. I’m excited about it right now, this is what I want to be doing.”

MARK
Exactly. In terms of like a long-term result, we don’t have any super firm plans other than kind of just riding the wave of getting as much material that we’re super stoked about and then kind making a decision about the best way to put it out. I guess we’re not super concerned about any sort of concrete ideas for it.

BIG NICK
The future is definitely planned out about one week in advance. And we kind of like it that way for now.

MARK
Totally. And it’ll be one of those things I think where we’ve always done the best when we’ve sort of developed songs live also. Like we’ll come in with certain ideas and they’ll be multiple versions of songs that will be developing before we settle on a final version of a recorded track. So I think we’ll probably go that route of just keep testing the waters and flushing songs out.

WiG
So you’re not feeling any sort of pressure to make a 10+ track album at this point? We’re just writing songs as they come…

MARGARET
Right.

BIG NICK
You sometimes wonder…you know, that instinct is natural because that’s the way that music has been released over the last 60-70 years…

MARGARET
Since music has been released.

BIG NICK

But I think we’re trying to relearn as well as everybody else is kind of learning that it doesn’t have to happen that way.

MARGARET
Everything is streaming now, so why are we…I mean, if we put out ten songs over the next year and maybe we’ll put them on a vinyl for art’s sake. But I don’t think in this day and age there’s a point.

BIG NICK
We’re in that weird spot though where everybody still wants something to hold. But there’s no real medium that makes sense. Like, I don’t have a CD player. I don’t have a record player at my house or a cassette player. I have none of those. We could spend so much time thinking about a release that you could hold but what would it be? So we just write songs and make videos, yeah. If we don’t have a label there’s no point in us playing by somebody else’s rules.

LIL NICK
Just fucking create man.

(Everybody laughs.)

WiG
But you still are hitting the road obviously. Especially over the next month. Tomorrow you’re going to Kansas City for the second time, right?

MARK
Yeah.

MARGARET
We’re always kind of on the road in the sense that like between here and a 10 hour radius.

BIG NICK
That’s our market right now.

MARGARET
We’re rarely in town on the weekends. So we’re playing out a lot, I feel like we’re just kind of getting to where we’re making that radius around Milwaukee bigger and bigger every few months. But it’s not like a 10-date tour.

BIG NICK
We’re saving that for next year.

MARK
We’ve always kind of thrived as a live band. Internally our performances have been super motivating for us personally. And so now we’re kind of finding that same sort of spark in the studio. I think it will be kind of a balance thing in terms of figuring out what to do next.

BIG NICK
There are logistical issues that have kept us from doing some stuff, like we couldn’t afford a computer to record on or a decent set of monitors. We just now have started to collect some of those things and it sucks that logistics like that, maybe a label a year ago would’ve helped us there but now we’re past that point where we have enough to get out what’s in our brains. We’re able to do it justice now.

WiG
In terms of the songwriting process I think I read somewhere that now it’s a little bit more of a collaborative effort…

MARGARET
Right. When we started the band three years ago it was just me and this other guy. He was more of a DJ, so he would just write the songs and I would put words to them. It was very simple. And then we started the band. He is no longer in the band. So we had to figure out how to re-write together as a group. That’s also why we haven’t put music out in such a long time, because we were learning together.

BIG NICK
Trying to figure out what our dynamic is.

MARGARET
Yeah. Like we still want to keep this sound but we don’t necessarily love how overly poppy it was getting to be, which was the cause of the separation. The group of us and him weren’t vibing at all on the same ideology of what we wanted to create. So yeah, we just hung out, figured it out, kept writing and kept writing until we were like, “Yeah, this is it.” So “Undercovers” is our first release as us as this new group. And we’re all much happier with the direction that we’re taking.

BIG NICK
I mean, I think we’ve been happy the majority of the time. I’m proud of everything we’ve put out…

MARGARET
Of course, of course. I just mean like at the end…

BIG NICK
We’ve been growing and now I think we’ve got new shoes that we’re all really comfortable in.

MARGARET
Yeah. Right.

BIG NICK
I was comfortable in the first set of shoes and the second set. And we’ve figured it out. Like any relationship, we’re very interested in keeping communication open. And it will change everyday because we’re a bunch of adult emotional people who are together constantly. You have to be able to talk through things. We’re now learning how this group works.

MARGARET
And it’s great.

BIG NICK
We’re starting to have a blast.

LIL NICK
It’s been working out really well.

MARK

We’re just pushing one another.

MARGARET
We went from almost breaking up to being now the best of friends.

BIG NICK
That’s true.

MARGARET
When I’m not around these guys I just miss them so much.

LIL NICK
We miss you too, so much.

MARGARET
I love you.

LIL NICK
Seriously, I love you.

(Mark laughs.)

LIL NICK
I think we need a moment.

BIG NICK
Shut the cameras off!

(Everybody laughs.)

WiG
And you got Thomas as well, who I learned recently lives in Chicago…

MARGARET
No he lives in Milwaukee but he works in Chicago and he commutes four hours a day.

BIG NICK
That’s why we don’t ask him to do anything extra-curricular, because he only has like one free hour a day.

MARGARET
Like, “How important is it right now to take this from you?”

BIG NICK
We do miss him though.

LIL NICK
Yeah.

BIG NICK
He’s the best dancer out of all of us.

MARGARET
Hey now!

(Everybody laughs.)

WiG
On any given night that might change.

BIG NICK
I mean, I’m the best dancer if I have a couple more shots. But only with me as the judge.

WiG
So last year it seemed like you branched out and did some more outside of Milwaukee gigs, festival gigs. What are some of your highlights from all those gigs over the last year.

MARK
We did our actual real tour like this time last year.

MARGARET
Yeah, September.

MARK
We did an East Coast run of like 10 dates with NO/NO. That was our real first actual extended going out…

BIG NICK
Consistent set of dates.

MARGARET
That was so fun.

MARK
It was incredible. And it was a huge learning experience for us. (Big) Nick for instance has been touring and playing in bands for like a decade, but for the rest of us I know it was…

BIG NICK (In a deep voice)
Okay great, now I feel old.

(Everybody laughs.)

MARK
He started when he was 9.

LIL NICK
Before he could walk.

MARK
But for the rest of us it was our first experience really going out and getting after it so it was really awesome in that sense and the shows were really unbelievable.

GGOOLLDD at the Lakefront Festival of the Arts 2015 [PHOTO - Joe Kirschling]
GGOOLLDD at the Lakefront Festival of the Arts 2015 [PHOTO – Joe Kirschling]
BIG NICK
We were always amazed by people’s response. Because you can only do what you can do. But Margaret never ceases to amaze the band with her ability to connect with the audience. And I’ll sit there on stage and thinking, “I’m buying whatever she’s selling, you know?” And I’ve known her for a long time. We do love playing shows because it is genuine. We are so stoked and mostly because people respond so well.

MARGARET
We definitely run on morale.

MARK
It’s that energy feedback loop. That yin and yang. And I think when we all feel that it elevates us to a place that’s kind of like intangible.

BIG NICK
I mean, we’re not getting paid much for this so what does it give back to us? Hopefully that’s morale that gets us through the week and gets us through the month. It’d be awesome if we could do it constantly.

WiG
How did you all meet though? To take it back a little bit…

BIG NICK
Mark and I met a long time ago. I’ve always been in bands.

WiG
You played in Hugh Bob & the Hustle?

BIG NICK
Yeah, I was playing in The Wildbirds when we met.

MARGARET
Number One Fan.

MARK
Speaking of emo bands.

BIG NICK
If you want to see some YouTube gold…

MARGARET
Oh my God.

BIG NICK
Pun intended.

MARGARET
Check out Nick Ziemann’s 18-year-old self in Number One Fan’s YouTube video for “Come On.”

LIL NICK
If you wanna see a spicy boy…

(Everybody laughs.)

LIL NICK
…Google that.

MARGARET
Please do.

MARK
Very spicy.

BIG NICK
So we met then. Margaret’s always had star power, so the fact that you put a microphone in her hand, she just does the same thing, but it’s amplified and it’s fun.

MARGARET
Except I have an audience.

BIG NICK
But you love it.

MARGARET
Oh it’s fun as hell.

BIG NICK
We love it. So yeah I’ve been a musician the six years prior that we knew each other and she shows up and I’ve been a lead singer my whole life, but I’m like, “Oh, you got this. Your first show you’re already better than me.” Everybody kind of knows their role.

MARGARET
We got Mark on Facebook.

BIG NICK
Mark and I knew each other through at least one degree of people.

MARK
We’re both from Appleton. The mutual friend and Nick were both working at AP and I was aware of Number One Fan and The Wildbirds growing up. They were like hometown hero bands in Appleton when I was in high school and maybe even when I was younger than that. So I was very aware of what Nick had done and my friend John was like, “There’s this new band GGOOLLDD that just started and they’re looking for a drummer,” and I had just started playing drums, so I was just like, “Fuck it. I’m going to message these guys.”

WiG
Were you living in Milwaukee?

MARK
I had just moved to Milwaukee, yeah.

MARGARET
Oh, you had just moved?

MARK
Yeah. Couple months. So I messaged Nick and went in and jammed and it worked out.

BIG NICK
We had another guy who auditioned and he was really great and is still a great guy but Mark had this hunger that I was like, “This dude is putting it out there.” You know that text message that you almost regret sending because it’s too vulnerable? That was like his Facebook message back to me. And I was like, “That is what we need. This band needs heart. We need to build off that heart.” Because again, you don’t need to be doing this. You do it because you want to. Now this guy’s probably the engine of this band musically and we’re thankful for him. We’re also really lovey and very vulnerable right now because we’ve been crying and drinking for two days.

WiG (motioning towards Lil Nick)
And how’d you find this handsome man?

LIL NICK
Originally I was filling in because Nick had a tour with Hugh Bob, so I was filling in on synth bass. I was also in this band Boy Blue…

MARK
We were kind of buddy bands. We played a handful of shows together kind of like when we were just starting out and you were more established in Milwaukee.

LIL NICK
Yeah, so I did a few just like, fill-in shows. I was technically in the band.

MARGARET
And we kept saying, “Nick, so you know, you’re not in the band.”

(Everybody laughs.)

MARK
But I will take credit for being a huge advocate for him.

MARGARET
Oh yeah.

BIG NICK
You were his champion. And I was your champion. I will take credit for that. I will be proud of that until the day I die.

MARK

So if (Big) Nick is the grandpa, (Lil) Nick is the baby, then I’m the dad.

(Everybody laughs.)

WiG
I first saw you on Halloween 2014.

BIG NICK
So like a year after we formed.

MARGARET
Oh yeah it was at Yield and we were SSIILLVVERR.

MARK
Right!

MARGARET
That was our one year. That’s how crazy it has been.

BIG NICK
Holy cow.

WiG
And had you played a few gigs at that point?

BIG NICK
It was still elementary based.

LIL NICK
It wasn’t like set in stone. But I was starting to play shows with Nick on bass.

BIG NICK
And Tony, the previous member, he really wanted the sound to be fleshed out and so he was like, “Well, is there room for Nick?” And of course we like hanging out with the dude so nobody was ever like, “No, we don’t need him.”

MARK
He’s a monster.

LIL NICK
Plus that MS-2000 just sounds so good.

MARK
We’re really fortunate, I think now we’re tapping into resources that we had but didn’t always execute in the best way in the sense that pretty much everybody in the band can play multiple instruments. Especially when we’re writing we’ll be like, “Do you have an idea?” and somebody steps up, lays something down, and it’s just this constant thing.

BIG NICK
Honestly, if you put ten of our newest songs together you couldn’t say which of us played what part. There’s no rules like that.

MARK
Like Nick has a guitar and Margaret’s…

MARGARET
Let’s not pretend that I know how to play anything.

MARK
But Margaret’s singing and going, “Play this note and play this note,” and she’s literally building chords…

LIL NICK
You definitely offer musical ideas.

MARK
Yeah and we all translate for each other.

BIG NICK
There’s no control hierachy anymore. And that’s a strange thing. I’ve never been in a band like this.

LIL NICK
I have not either.

MARK
Me too.

BIG NICK
And it’s so fun and interesting.

LIL NICK
And it’s freeing. And people aren’t afraid to say, “I don’t think that’s going to work out.” No one ever gets upset or offended and we move on.

MARGARET
I’ve watched other people write together and so many times they’ll just let the other person play and play even if they don’t like it, just because they don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings or step on each other’s toes. But because we are so close and we do understand each other so much, if I’m like, “Nick, stop playing that, it doesn’t work, let’s move on,” he’s like, “Yeah, you’re probably right, let’s move on.”

BIG NICK
We respect each other.

LIL NICK
Exactly. It’s not about trying to put someone down. It’s about the bigger picture.

BIG NICK
We’re all here to serve the songs.

MARGARET
Everyone’s ears have to be happy.

LIL NICK
Everyone is capable of coming up with awesome parts but if they don’t work in the flow of the song then they’re out.

MARK
And we’re not the most technical band most of the time. I think we operate purely on feel, completely.

BIG NICK
We found this computer plug in the other day that represented our entire approach to music. I don’t remember what it’s called but you can adjust the “grit” and “emotion” and “heartbeat.” And I knew exactly what it was saying, so I turned up more of this and less of that. But we also just all love pop, so it’s not like we’re trying to write a 17-minute obscure self-serving song. We like things to be somewhat concise.

MARK
We ultimately serve ourselves by serving the song, usually the two are one and the same.

BIG NICK
Luckily we have a group of people that all agree on that.

MARK
Our tastes generally align.

WiG
So you don’t get caught up just listening to your own music? It sounds like you’re listening to a lot of different stuff…

MARGARET
I don’t think we ever listen to ourselves.

LIL NICK
That is not us.

BIG NICK
Sometimes to a fault we don’t. I think we can forget that we make music for a couple weeks at a time.

MARGARET
I do when I’m working out, but the problem is I just never work out.

(Everyone laughs.)

MARK
But at the same time we all have day jobs, disposable hours throughout the day and we all love music.

LIL NICK
I make monthly Spotify playlists. I’m always listening to new music.

MARK
And it’s all different stuff. Like I’m good buddies with the Close Up of the Serene guys and they’re so deep into the most incredible, forward-thinking club music and techno and all this stuff that I don’t even know where to begin looking for it. So I use them as my librarians to find all this stuff.

MARGARET
Who found that “Bad Blood” song? Or is that just on the radio?

BIG NICK
That song’s just been kind of coming up lately.

MARGARET
That is like the best song right now.

LIL NICK
I played it in the van when I was driving that one time and we were just all super into it…

WiG
Is this different than the Taylor Swift “Bad Blood”?

LIL NICK
What’s that?

BIG NICK
Does she have a “Bad Blood” song?

MARK
She does. But it’s not that one.

MARGARET
No we really get amped up to Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, on the reg.

BIG NICK
Or this Niki and the Dove song. We usually have a band song every two months.

MARK
Yeah Niki and the Dove kind of hung around.

LIL NICK
That Nao song.

MARK
Nao’s been a big one.

LIL NICK
She is incredible.

MARGARET
Oh my god, so good.

LIL NICK
That’s the “Bad Blood” song, listen to that. I think you’d really dig it.

MARK
Super cool like psych-soul shit.

(We take a break to get drinks and then talk about schedules.)

MARK
Wednesday through Saturday now we all have a lot of the same time together to work. Aligning our schedules has been super nice for work flow.

BIG NICK
We’ve kind of broken the seal now where we just have 15 minutes of hanging then we start work. Whereas it used to take four hours of drinking to encourage ourselves to write something. Now it’s just like, “Let’s start where we left off last night.”

MARK
It’s hard especially when you only have a couple hours. There were times where it was like we would get done with work, come over and then (Big) Nick and Margaret would both be working at night, so we’d have like two hours to work. But you can’t get into a groove. So now we have blocks of time to settle into it.

WiG (to Margaret)
When you and I first talked at Blackbird it seemed like you had grown tired of the winter and just the Milwaukee vibe in general. But the band has obviously picked up…

MARGARET
I mean I’m still tired of Milwaukee and the winter, but if it wasn’t for these guys I wouldn’t be here. They are my home, no matter where we are. That’s all that matters.

BIG NICK
And that’s why we just want to go on the road.

MARGARET
Right and I honestly think that I can speak for the band when I say when we are on the road is when we feel most at home.

MARK
That is true.

LIL NICK
Absolutely.

MARGARET
When we are in a hotel room or when we’re all in the same space, that’s when we’re home.

BIG NICK
We’re also just the best to each other. We’re the best versions of ourselves on the road.

MARGARET
The more time we spend together the better we get along.

(“Untitled (How Does It Feel)” by D’Angelo comes on and we reminisce about the sexy video.)

MARK
Our buddy works for React. They do like North Coast Festival and Summer Set. He got me and our buddy Jason front row tickets for D’Angelo. It was the most life-changing experience at Union Park where they do Pitchfork.

LIL NICK
I remember Jason saying he was backstage looking at you in the front row and he said, “I’ve never seen someone so happy.”

MARK
It was like a religious experience. It was insane.

WiG
Ya’ll are playing at First Avenue this month, right? First time at the main room?

BIG NICK
Yeah.

LIL NICK
So excited.

MARGARET
We just played there for the first time. We had never been to Minneapolis ever, and we just played a Minneapolis show. We opened for Born Ruffians at 7th Street Entry. And now we have this show with Har Mar and Tickle Torture, who are both from Minneapolis so it’s going to be huge for us.

LIL NICK
We are so excited.

BIG NICK
Yeah, we’ve been dying to go to Minneapolis. We love that city. Har Mar is playing the show with us at Turner and we didn’t expect re-payment…

MARK
We were just so excited to have him.

BIG NICK
But then a week later he asked us to open up that show.

MARK
Me particularly, I went to school in Minneapolis.

LIL NICK
I did as well.

MARK
So I’ve been to like 25 shows at First Avenue. It’s like a dream level venue to play.

WiG
I went to school there too.

LIL NICK
Cool. Yeah me and Mark both went to school in Minneapolis at the same time but we didn’t know each other. We’re super pumped to play that room.

WiG
And like going back to Turner Hall…

MARK
That’s going to be incredible.

WiG
Tell me about that show in January.

BIG NICK
Oh man.

MARK
I think we’re still processing it.

BIG NICK
It felt like we got on a stage that someone else should’ve been on. I mean we were going to do our best but…

MARK
It was so beyond.

BIG NICK
…we hoped for decent and we got amazing.

WiG
From each other or from the crowd?

MARK
Everything about it was just…

LIL NICK
Everybody involved…it was an incredible experience.

MARK
We never would’ve anticipated the response that that many people would’ve shown up and hang out and stuff.

BIG NICK
It was an awful winter, shitty day.

LIL NICK
It snowed that day.

BIG NICK
The energy in that place was amazing. It was like, “Wait, we get to get on this stage?”

MARGARET
We’ve been a band for what? Two years.

MARK
Just a little over two years.

MARGARET
We’ve all been together for not even a year and a half. And we sold out the show before the doors opened.

LIL NICK
I think it was at sound check that we found out.

MARK
It was like, “You’ve gotta be kidding me. This can’t be real.”

MARGARET
And at that point you can’t not put on a great show, because you’re just as excited as these kids in the front row.

BIG NICK
You’ve got this like massive emotional hard-on. What you’re doing, it means something. You know, the majority of the time as a musician you feel uncertain. But at those moments it is so real. It was awesome. Milwaukee has been very very awesome to us.

WiG
I know my girlfriend and her friends when they first caught wind of you, I think it was at PBR Fest maybe, they were totally on board.

MARK
That’s super cool.

MARGARET
What’s the word that you always use?

BIG NICK
Me?

MARGARET
It’s contagious.

BIG NICK
We’re trying to make ourselves happy and if it makes other people happy then it’s like, “Alright, I can do this for the rest of my life.”

MARGARET
It’s contagious because we make other people happy because they’re making us happy and that just keeps…

MARK
It’s this constant energy loop.

LIL NICK
We feed off of that, absolutely.

BIG NICK
That and sandwiches.

MARGARET
And soup.

MARK
Especially if it’s bottomless.

(We get off topic and start talking about Miley Cyrus and the time I saw her at the Bradley Center.)

WiG
Last question, if GGOOLLDD had a huge budget to do a big arena show, what would it look like?

MARGARET
There would be white horses.

LIL NICK
There would be unicorns everywhere.

MARK
There would be soup for all.

BIG NICK
Everybody gets a tiny unicorn under their chairs.

LIL NICK
There’d be a Pamplemousse La Croix for everybody.

MARK
LaCroix’s on ice.

BIG NICK
We’re very democratic. It’s like a socialist concert, you can have a big unicorn, you can have a medium sized unicorn. It will grow into a big unicorn if you treat it right.

(Everybody laughs.)

BIG NICK
Hug it everyday.

LIL NICK
Basically unicorns and LaCroix.

BIG NICK
That’s the name of our next album.

MARGARET
Unicorns and LaCroix.

BIG NICK
Well maybe after that LaCroix will sponsor us.

MARGARET
We’ve been asking.

LIL NICK
We did email them.

MARGARET
They can say “No.”

MARK
I emailed LaCroix trying to get an endorsement and they passed. Hard pass.

(Everybody laughs.)

LIL NICK
But we move forward, that’s all you can do.

ggwide

UW-Madison statement calls Obama noose costume ‘despicable’

At the University of Wisconsin weekend football game against Nebraska, a fan wore a President Barack Obama mask and a noose around his neck.

The fan took off the noose when asked by Camp Randall Stadium staff.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank says that once the noose was removed, the rest of the costume fell within the stadium’s costume policies.

Blank and athletic director Barry Alvare have issued this statement on the incident:

To the Badger community,

What we saw Saturday night at Camp Randall was despicable and caused an immense amount of pain throughout our community. And it should have, as a noose is a symbol of one of the vilest forms of racial hatred and intimidation in our country’s history.

As many have noted, thousands of African-Americans were lynched in the United States from 1882-1968. We can’t ignore the significance of this history and we can’t underestimate the symbolism of a noose to all those who see that image today.

A noose displayed in this fashion has no place on campus. Together, the Athletics Department and the University’s Office of Legal Affairs are initiating a review of stadium policies with the goal of ensuring that symbols of this type are not displayed in our stadium again.

We have work to do at UW-Madison on campus climate issues, and an incident like this only deepens the divides across campus. Both the University administration and Athletics Department are committed to doing this hard work, while being acutely aware that we are a long way from where we want to be.

To those who have spoken out about this, we hear you and we thank you for your feedback and concern. Together, we will continue to strive to make UW-Madison a place where all Badgers can thrive.

Rebecca Blank, Chancellor

Barry Alvarez, Athletic Director

Despite ‘ick’ factor, Trump costumes in higher demand than Clinton’s

Despite an undeniable “ick” factor, Trump costumes seem to be in higher demand than Clinton’s.

Last Halloween, Erin Holin and her husband coiffed their 2-year-old’s blond hair, Donald Trump style, and bought him a little suit with a red tie.

“I taught him to say, ‘I’m very rich!’ He even squished his face to be ‘angry Trump,”’ she said.

This year, her husband wants to do the same and her answer is no.

“Last year it was silly,” Holin said. “It was meant to be a joke and taken as tongue in cheek.”

Not so much at the moment, at least for her young child, after a video surfaced of Trump boasting about groping women’s genitals and other lows in the presidential race, including two women who told The New York Times that Trump reportedly touched them inappropriately.

“He says he wants to go as Batman, so I think we’ll go with that,” Holin said of her child.

Until recently, Trump and Hillary Clinton costumes were still selling strong despite some reservations among those who once had none. What turned them around? The “grab ‘em” video, for one, and general anxiety over the low-brow nature of the race.

In spite of it all, Heather Higgins is going for it — for her dogs at least.

She lives in the heart of New York’s Greenwich Village, where Halloween is a big and bawdy affair with its famous parade for humans and costume parties for neighborhood dogs in nearby parks. This year, her male schnauzer-dachshund mix, Winslow, and her female Havanese, Carly, will be dressed in matching royal blue pantsuits as the two candidates.

Winslow will wear a tie, while Carly will accessorize with a scarf.

“Concerned that my male dog will be Trump, I’ve solved the problem by making him a big, ‘I’m with Her’ button,” Higgins said.

Following the second debate, another political costume entered the Halloween costume sweepstakes, riffing on the red-sweatered Kenneth Bone, who was among a group of undecided voters invited to question the candidates on stage during the town hall-style meet up.

After Bone became an immediate social media sensation, the site Yandy.com — known for creating costumes based on hot-button pop-culture figures — didn’t waste any time with the rotund, mustachioed Bone.

Less than 48 hours after the debate, the site went into production for a “sexy” Bone costume and began taking pre-orders, selling out within four hours.

Yandy’s “Sexy Undecided Voter” features a red crop top, white crop undershirt, blue high-waisted pants and the must-have mustache, black glasses and — natch — a microphone ala the one passed around on debate night.

And the price? $99.95.

Yandy also has its own take on the Republican nominee with its “Donna T. Rumpshaker” look, priced at $71.95. It comes with a white sleeveless collar shirt, red tie, royal blue faux blazer and royal blue booty shorts. A “Making America Great” red cap and blond wig are sold separately.

So how does Yandy feel about the “ick” factor?“That is for the customers to decide,” said Chad Horstman, the site’s founder and chief executive.

At costume seller Fun.com, chief marketing officer Mark Bietz said searches for Trump costumes were on the rise, while Hillary costume searches have been about one-third of Trump’s.

“Since we’ve restocked a billionaire wig that was sold out almost all year, the demand has stayed steady for this product,” he offered as one small example. “Though personally I see an ‘ick’ factor, I’m not seeing it change demand at all.”

At thrift destination Savers/Value Village stores, Trump and Clinton costumes overall were selling at twice the rate of other Halloween looks, the company said. Trump masks and wigs were leading Clinton masks and wigs ever so slightly.

In Seattle, Anita Lavine’s 10-year-old son was among those who dressed in Trump costumes for Halloween last year. She and her husband also went as Trump supporters, though they have every intention of voting for Clinton. While that might seem counter-intuitive, perhaps it makes sense in an election as strange as this year’s.

Normally, the candidate who inspires the most costumes wins the election. But Clinton is lagging at the costume stores, even though she’s well ahead in the polls. That suggests the popularity of Trump costumes might not reflect his electoral appeal so much as his bizarre, clown-like look, which is easy to parody.

“Last year, it was still pretty funny,” Lavine said of her son’s Trump garb. “Would I let him do it now? Probably not. I’m sure there will be a ton of little Donald and Hillarys out there this year, but not my kiddos.”

Nick Braun in Columbus, Ohio, has a 2-year-old son. While he and his wife are registered Republicans and say they will vote for Trump, they’re not touching the presidential race for themselves or their toddler.

“Maybe in the past it would have been cute,” Braun said of transforming their young child into a baby Trump, like the one the candidate himself was handed by a supporter at a recent campaign event.

Besides, dad said, “he wants to be a pirate.”

 

Wisconsin Sound #7

 

Tenement at Panther Arena. [PHOTO - Joe Kirschling]
Tenement at Panther Arena. [PHOTO – Joe Kirschling]
PUNK ROCK AT PANTHER ARENA

“They’re America’s greatest rock and roll band,” Joe Kirschling told me as we stood in the lobby of the UWM Panther Arena in downtown Milwaukee. The photographer and SIN BAD drummer was referring to Tenement, a cult punk band from Appleton. “I used to think I was the only one saying that, but they’ve been written about in The New York Times and Grantland.”

Indeed, Kirschling’s words weren’t mere hyperbole. And yet there we were, hanging out in the lobby of the UWM Panther Arena before a motorcycle race, waiting to see “America’s greatest rock and roll band.” It was an odd affair to be sure, with (free) music starting at 5:30 p.m. from Platinum Boys, Milwaukee’s premier power-pop party band.

Tenement at Panther Arena. [PHOTO - Joe Kirschling]
Tenement at Panther Arena. [PHOTO – Joe Kirschling]
Arena employees were seen complaining about the volume being too loud. Luckily most kids came prepared with ear muffs for the motorcycles. There wasn’t a big crowd hanging around to see the bands. Most people just walked on by. But for about 15 minutes or so that lobby got an unanticipated performance from one of the best bands in Wisconsin, if not America.

The traditional Tenement trio was joined by an endearing tambourine/vocal duo for a fiery three-song set. Frontman Amos Pitsch is a fantastic guitar player, even when tucked into what my girlfriend described as “a public bathroom.” Tenement’s brief set made us regret missing the band at Eaux Claires and Mile of Music.

Milwaukee hardcore group Midwives finished off the lobby lineup, eliciting some “rock on” hands and air drumming from the crowd making their way to the motorcycle event. Free pre-game lobby rock (or rap/folk/jazz/electronic/etc) would be more than welcome during the Admirals debut season in the Arena.

THE ECLECTIC BACK ROOM @ COLECTIVO

Siren at The Back Room @ Colectivo [PHOTO - David Szymanski]
Siren at The Back Room @ Colectivo [PHOTO – David Szymanski]
The Pabst Theater Group began revitalizing Milwaukee’s live music scene in 2002. Renowned artists who once skipped Milwaukee on tour now find themselves playing sold-out shows at The Riverside, The Pabst, and Turner Hall Ballroom. Last year the Pabst Group extended their reach by adding The Back Room at the Colectivo on Prospect to their roster of venues.

The Back Room debuted last summer and in just over a year has established itself as one of the best (albeit only) intimate all-ages venues in town for national touring acts. While it has stuck mostly to folk and acoustic-leaning indie rock acts, The Back Room has expanded its jazz programming and began featuring harder rocking bands.

Gosh Pith at The Back Room @ Colectivo [PHOTO - David Szymanski]
Gosh Pith at The Back Room @ Colectivo [PHOTO – David Szymanski]
Local bands have been added to a few Back Room shows, but on October 7, Detroit’s electro-rock duo Gosh Pith were joined by three of the finest and most eclectic local artists. The lineup was curated by Sam Ahmedbetter known as experimental hip-hop artist WebsterXand included his New Age Narcissism collaborator Siren, synth wave rockers NO/NO, and electronic artist Liquid City Motors.

While you might not think the back room of a coffeehouse can fit that many people, the capacity in The Back Room is 297. It’s a warm space with wood floors, plants, brick, and a quality sound and lighting system. The Gosh Pith show did not reach capacity, but those who made it out were attentive and engaged. It was an early start and early finish, ideal for the all-ages crowd. It was also my first time seeing Gosh Pith and they impressed with a unique blend of electronic, rock, and hip-hop.

HALLOWEEN CONCERT PREVIEW

Madison Halloween 2005. [PHOTO - Joey Grihalva]
Madison Halloween 2005. [PHOTO – Joey Grihalva]
The highlight of my one semester at UW-Madison was the chaotic, riotous, entertaining, and momentarily scary Halloween. The night did not become frightening because of some spooky holiday vibes, but because riot police eventually marched down State Street, blanketing the thoroughfare with pepper spray and making mass arrests.

After bar close State Street got out of control, with huge piles of costumes set ablaze, storefront windows being broken, and all kinds of drunken revelry. I went to visit Madison for Halloween the next year and the situation got worse. That year police used sound bombs, rubber bullets, floodlights, pepper spray and a brigade of police horses. That was 2005.

In 2006 the City of Madison decided to finally do something to curtail the violence and vandalism associated with Halloween. They began charging a small admission fee to enter State Street, which was gated and contained. Arrests were cut in half. In 2007 the city partnered with Frank Productions to bring live music to what is now called Freakfest. The event has grown into the region’s largest Halloween party and music festival, having featured headliners such as OK GO, Matt and Kim, Mac Miller, and Atmosphere. The city reported only 9 arrests in 2015, down from 334 in 2005.

Freakfest 2016.
Freakfest 2016.

The 2016 edition of Freakfest has arguably the best lineup to date, with one of hip-hop’s hottest stars headlining. Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals delivered my favorite set at the Soundset music festival this year and that was early in the afternoon. The rest of the State Street mainstage lineup includes Minneapolis dance-pop rocker Har Mar Superstar, ex-Foxygen drummer Shaun Fleming’s solo project Diane Coffee, Sweet Spirit, and St. Paul and The Broken Bones.

Freakfest 2016 will also have a country stage on Gilman Street headlined by Kip Moore, plus Jon Pardi, Wheelhouse, Greta Van Fleet, and Adam Bartels Band. There will be a third stage on Frances Street featuring regional talent including Madison’s own rap phenom Trapo, Milwaukee-based/Madison-born hip-hop producer/rapper Mic Kellog, Chicago indie rockers The Kickback, Minneapolis rapper Lucien Parker, and Chicago rapper Rich Robbins.

img_7729Milwaukee will have a number of options for Halloween weekend concerts. Gloss Records is hosting a two-night Spooktacular. Friday will feature Sex Scenes, Surgeons in Heat, Rio Turbo, and Soul Low at Cactus Club. Saturday will feature Moon Rats, Piles, Soup Moat, and NO/NO at Riverwest Public House.

In 2015 Company Brewing held their first annual Nightmare on Center Street, which was a sold-out affair featuring Chicago’s Kweku Collins, Minneapolis’ MaLLy, Soul Low (in full KISS costume), Klassik, Foreign Goods, and New Age Narcissism. This year the event has expanded to include nearby Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts (all-ages), Club Timbuktu and High Dive. You can buy a $15 wristband for entry to all venues and gets you a free beer at High Dive.

There will be a wide array of musical talent at this year’s Nightmare on Center Street. Carl Nichols (guitar player for New Age Narcissism, De La Buena, Painted Caves, RAS Movement) will debut a new hardcore punk band at the Jazz Gallery that includes Bo Triplex, Taj Raiden, and Jake Diaz. Funky reggae, hip-hop influenced jam band Recalcitrant will headline Club Timbuktu, while High Dive will feature the No Stress DJs and performances by Kyndal J. and Chakara Blu.

Company Brewing will host a “Dinner and a Movie” at 7 p.m. featuring the Joshua Backes (New Boyz Club) led DIY Chamber Music ensemble accompanying the 1915 silent film Alice in Wonderland with a soundtrack written by four local composers. Beloved local psych-pop rockers The Fatty Acids will headline Company Brewing. There will be a special late night menu and drummer/dancer extraordinaire Christopher Gilbert will host a costume contest.

nightmareoncenter

NEW MUSIC FROM SEX SCENES, FIVY, AR WESLEY, CHAKARA BLU, AND ZED KENZO.

Back in the fourth installment of this column I mentioned running into Connor LaMue of Bad Wig at High Dive in Milwaukee. He told me about a new hardcore band he was in with Harrison Colby (Gloss Records, NO/NO), Zach Otto, and Chelsea Hayes. It didn’t take long for the band to release a fast and dirty demo, which you can listen to by clicking here. They hope to put out a record before the year is up.

fivyOur friends at Explain News premiered a new EP from Milwaukee songstress Fivy last week. The 5-track release is entitled “Dreamscape” and is definitely worth a listen. For more head over to Explain News.

Explain News also wrote up the new release from Milwaukee rapper AR Wesley. Check that out by clicking here.

Two Milwaukee femcees, Chakara Blu and Zed Kenzo, each put out a new track recently. Chakara’s is a woozy, bass-heavy track produced by Mr. Kou that you can listen by clicking here. In anticipation of her first project since moving back home to Milwaukee from Los Angeles, Zed Kenzo has released a single, “Scary Spice.” Listen to it by clicking here.

NEW VIDEOS FROM HEAR HERE PRESENTS

Last night Hear Here Presents celebrated one year of capturing live music performances from Wisconsin and touring musicians by doing what they do best, video recording new performances by the Rusty P’s and Klassik. In the fourth installment of this column I wrote about an experience attending a Hear Here Presents shoot in their new studio space. In the last month they’ve released four new videos from Lex Allen, King Courteen, New Boyz Club, and Chicago’s Grood. Watch them all below.

Milwaukee ranks No. 4 among best cities for trick-or-treating

Milwaukee came in at No. 4 on the Trick-or-Treat Index for 2016, which identified the best cities and neighborhoods for trick-or-treating on Halloween.

The list, published by Zillow, put Philadelphia in the No. 1 spot.

How were the ratings compiled?

 

Zillow, in a news release, said it “set out to find the cities where kids can get the best and most candy in the shortest amount of time and have other kids to trick-or-treat with.”

Zillow assigned a team of economists to look at home values, single-family home density, crime rate and the share of the population under 10 years old to determine the list.

Single-family homes are especially dense in Philadelphia, pushing the city to the top of the list, up 12 spots from 2015. San Jose, California, San Francisco, Milwaukee and Los Angeles round out the top five.

“The national ranking is a fun way for trick-or-treaters and their parents across the country to assess how their city compares to others this Halloween season,” said Zillow chief economist Svenja Gudell. “But what’s really important are the local hot spots, which is why we also identified the five best neighborhoods for trick-or-treating in each of the top cities. For candy hunters in cities not on the list, look for areas with lots of decorated homes and neighborhoods with other kids running around in the holiday spirit.”

Other cities that made big jumps were Seattle, up nine spots, and Portland, up eight. Austin makes its first appearance on the list, while Baltimore and Washington, D.C., return after missing the list in 2015.

To see the complete rankings, including the best neighborhoods to trick-or-treat in each city, go to http://www.zillow.com/blog/trick-or-treat/.

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Best Cities for Trick-or-Treating in 2016:

  1. Philadelphia
  2. San Jose, Calif.
  3. San Francisco
  4. Milwaukee
  5. Los Angeles
  6. Phoenix
  7. Denver
  8. Portland, Ore.
  9. Seattle
  10. Columbus, Ohio
  11. Las Vegas
  12. Baltimore
  13. Dallas
  14. San Diego
  15. Charlotte, N.C.
  16. Austin, Texas
  17. Albuquerque, N.M.
  18. Chicago
  19. Nashville, Tenn.
  20. Washington, DC

The scariest haunted house this election year? ‘Doomocracy’

Artist Pedro Reyes thinks American politics are pretty darn terrifying, especially this election year, and he wants to scare the wits out of you with his “Doomocracy” exhibition.

Alternately called “The Haunted House of Political Horrors,” the satirical, performance-based installation that opened this month has visitors navigate a series of rooms that deal with scary things like gun violence, climate change and painkillers addiction.

“When I think of Frankenstein, I think of genetic engineering and the food industry,” said the artist, whose primary home is in Mexico City. “When I think of vampires, I think of banks and the financial sector, or if you think of zombies, you can think of how people are addicted to prescription drugs.”

Spread over three floors of the sprawling Brooklyn Army Terminal, it’s timed for both Halloween and the general elections — “a perfect recipe to do something with a haunted house with the most scary things you can find today, which is politics,” he said. “Monsters are fantasy, but the scary things we’re dealing with for this project are real.”

As Reyes began considering how “these metaphors of scary things” could be staged, he appropriated the haunted house format — walking through a maze of horrors — for an “intense theatrical experience” in which groups of 12 people walk from room to room encountering short skits performed by actors and audience members cast in roles.

The experience starts in front of a monumental effigy Reyes created of the Statue of Liberty as a Trojan Horse, representing “this idea of how war has been normalized … in the name of freedom.”

Visitors are then whisked in a minivan to another building to begin a tour of 14 darkened rooms.

One room is a commentary on the diabetes epidemic and the food industry. It simulates a funeral parlor dominated by a coffin in the shape of a pink-frosted Twinkie while a man plays junk-food jingles on an electric organ. The undertaker explains to prospective customers — the audience — the new trend in fashioning coffins in the shape of people’s favorite sugary foods.

In another room, the setting is a corporate boardroom where a bailout unfolds; the audience votes on whether to get a big bonus or save the company.

The project provides a “space for catharsis for all the things that you fear every day,” Reyes said.

Katie Hollander, executive director of Creative Time, which is presenting the project, explained how it came about.

“As the political climate continues to heat up and became in some ways more and more absurd we felt it was a project that needed to be realized,” she said. “People are really struggling to understand the complexities and absurdities of this particular election and feel that our candidates and elected officials aren’t necessarily tackling the big issues of our time.”

In a fake polling place, audience members fill out referendum ballots. In the next room, they’re in for a bit of a shock (which won’t be disclosed here). In fact, during a press preview, some rooms were off-limits in the interest of creating an aura of mystery. When asked if any skits involved actors in the role of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Reyes would say only that visitors were in for a surprise at the end.

“Doomocracy” runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 6 p.m. to midnight through Nov. 6. Advance ticket purchase is necessary for the two-hour experience.

Umphrey’s McGhee


THE SETS LIST

No trick, just treat: “improg” (that’s “progressive improvisation”) rock band Umphrey’s McGee is returning to Milwaukee for its third Halloween residency since 2012. The Oct. 31 show is sold out, as are three-day passes, but there’s still time to jump on the Thursday or Friday night shows, both of which should feature the same jam energy — if not more, since the band won’t have just played a bunch of shows in a row. Think about it.

At the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. Tickets are $28 in advance and $30 day-of-show. For more information visit pabsttheater.org.

8 p.m. Oct. 29, 30, 31

What makes us scream? Read on…

Margee Kerr says she has the best job in the world: She studies fear for a living, and loves to scare herself as part of her research.

Kerr is a sociologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, and just in time for Halloween, she’s written a book called “Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear.”

The book documents Kerr’s adventures around the world experiencing extreme attractions, ranging from the tallest roller coasters in Japan to the CN Tower’s EdgeWalk in Toronto, where participants are tethered to the skyscraper for an outdoor walk 116 stories off the ground.

Kerr also works at a haunted attraction in Pittsburgh called ScareHouse, analyzing customer responses to help keep the fright levels just right. “We’re trying to scare people in a way that’s going to make them feel good,” she said.

Kerr is interested in the notion that society usually regards “fear as a negative force. But there’s another side to fear that’s fun and fulfilling,” and that’s the sweet spot sought by recreational activities — whether skydiving, ziplining, roller coasters or haunted houses.

“When we know we’re not really in any physical danger, we can enjoy the endorphins and the dopamine. That response is similar to being really excited and happy,” she said.

Her quest for the “Scream” book took her on “many, many adventures across the world, doing as many scary and thrilling things as I could. I look at it from the cultural perspective, the physiological perspective and the psychological perspective: Why do we engage with this type of material? Part of it is the natural high we get from activating the flight-or-fight response in a safe environment.”

Kerr says the trick is to figure out what types of situations “trigger our flight or fight response. What are people afraid of, what’s going to tap into the fear?”

For example, “we know from science that seeing the whites of people’s eyes will activate the amygdala _ the emotional processing center of our brain.” That intense response to another being’s eyes explains why scary attractions often have “dolls with big eyes or animatronics with wide-open eyes.” Startling sounds, fast-moving props and other sudden visual effects also trigger instinctive responses, upping the fear factor without putting people in real danger.

She added that part of the draw for an extreme adventure or attraction is that “you are testing your own resilience. When you come out the other side of a scary movie or haunted house, you have accomplished something. You’ve tested your will. Even though we know nothing will hurt us, the self-esteem boost is real.”

As for her own responses, she found the CN Tower Edgewalk to be “way more terrifying than I thought it would be.” Skydiving, on the other hand, was pure pleasure for Kerr.

Kerr says her research can have implications beyond theme parks and haunted houses by helping people understand how to tolerate stress. “We’re trying to find the best ways to teach people how to experience their emotions in ways that are healthy and not debilitating,” she said. “When people lean into the experience and test themselves in an environment that is safe, they come to learn they can handle stress and they are stronger than they thought they were.”

Review: Del Toro’s ‘Crimson Peak’ casts a gothic spell

The most pressing threat in Guillermo del Toro’s gothic horror “Crimson Peak” isn’t the ooze-filled cauldrons of dead souls in the basement of the old Victorian mansion, nor the plotting, black-clad sister (Jessica Chastain), who serves a bitterly poisonous tea.

It’s the ever-lurking possibility that, at any moment, the lush, ornate tapestry of Del Toro’s film might swallow its performers whole.

It would be a grand death. 

“Crimson Peak” is so lovingly wrapped in the stylish trappings of the genre that it’s one of the few movies you could say is worth it purely for the wallpaper.

It stars Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain — a fine trio of actors. But the film’s true above-the-title artists are more properly cinematographer Dan Laustsen, production designer Thomas Sanders and costume designer Kate Hawley, who under the lordly command of Del Toro, summon an atmosphere gaga with all things gothic.

“Crimson Peak” casts a spell that fails to hold, but it’s unquestionably the work of a man who loves — I mean, really loves — movies.

It opens with a flashback and a promise from Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) that “ghosts are real.” After the death of her mother, she (or at least a ghoulish ghostly of her) visits Edith with a frightful warning: “Beware of Crimson Peak.” It’s a message that curiously fails to impress. 

The setting is turn-of-the-century Buffalo, where Edith lives with her father Carter Cushing (an excellent Jim Beaver). She wants to be a novelist, but her manuscript (a ghost story) is condescendingly rejected, praised only for feminine “loops” of her penmanship. Advised to write a love story, she pleads that the ghosts are a metaphor for the past.

Such is the tenor of Del Toro’s fable, which he wrote with Matthew Robins. You wouldn’t mistake it for Henry James or even for Hitchcock. The exquisite set design is more heightened than the emotions; the grotesques are too beautiful to be too deep.

From England, Thomas Sharpe (the splendid Tom Hiddleston) comes to town with his mysterious sister Lucille (Chastain), in search of a grant for a contraption of his invention to mine the red clay beneath their home. Cushing, an established business man, quickly rejects Thomas, but Edith doesn’t.

The Sharpes have clearly duplicitous motives, but Edith swoons for Thomas. Just as they’re departing Buffalo, Edith’s father is killed. The scene is a beauty: in the steam and golden light of a morning bathhouse, an unseen assailant sneaks up to Carter and crushes his skull over a sink, leaving blood and water flowing from the cracked porcelain.

Edith and Thomas wed and the trio returns to the remote Sharpe family manor in England, Allerdale Hall, where the movie moves into its more sedate, predictable house-of-horrors second half. A hole in the roof pours light and autumn leaves down the center, red clay bubbles beneath the floor boards, ghosts lurk in the closets, the bath runs blood red and (horror of horrors) the kitchen could use granite counter tops. It’s a fixer upper.

The movie settles into a “Notorious”-like plot where Edith is slowly poisoned while unearthing the Sharpe family secrets.

The rich atmosphere of “Crimson Peak” never wanes, but the story does. Having summoned the gothic ghosts, Del Toro never fully unleashes them. The director’s dark fantasy masterpiece remains “Pan’s Labyrinth,” but his affection for gothic romance is infectious; hopefully he has a Dickens adaptation in him.

As even his last film, the kaiju monster movie “Pacific Rim,” proved, there may be no better conjurer of color in movies right now. His dreams, and nightmares, are in technicolor.